Foods that love you back

Health benefits of red wine and dark chocolate

Flowers, wine, chocolate — Valentine’s Day staples, right? But the standards of red wine and dark chocolate may have other benefits than just keeping your true love happy. Additionally, the possible heart health benefits of red wine and dark chocolate — when consumed in moderation — may surprise you.

Wine and chocolate are one of my favorite ways to celebrate any day, not just Valentine’s Day. Although I typically prefer white wine and milk chocolate, I may have to follow the dark side, based on the perceived health benefits.

Red wine, dark chocolate, your health

According to Vivek Kesara, MD, a family medicine practitioner at the Banner Health Center in Chandler, Arizona, both red wine and dark chocolate are believed to be good for your heart because they are rich in protective antioxidants.

“They contain certain antioxidants that have been shown to lower the risk for heart disease by increasing the levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL, known as the ‘good’ cholesterol) in the blood and defending arteries against damage,” Dr. Kesara said.

Antioxidants in red wine

One of the best antioxidants in red wine, resveratrol, comes from the skin of the grapes used to make the wine. Because the fermentation process for red wine is longer than for white, red wine contains higher levels of resveratrol.

Eating red or purple grapes or drinking grape juice also provides resveratrol. Good to know, but for me, certainly not as much fun as drinking wine and eating chocolate.

Antioxidants in dark chocolate

According to Dr. Kesara, cocoa, the base ingredient in chocolate, contains high levels of flavonoids.

“The flavanoids in cocoa are called flavanols, and in addition to their antioxidant powers, studies have shown they may contribute to a healthier vascular system by reducing blood pressure and promoting more efficient blood flow to the brain and heart,” he said. “Dark chocolate generally contains the most flavanols, depending on how it is processed. Other foods that contain flavanols include cranberries, apples, peanuts, onions, tea and red wine.”

While these foods may offer heart-healthy benefits, other research questions the correlation between antioxidants in red wine and heart health. Moreover, experts do not recommend people start drinking alcohol simply to get these antioxidants. Also, people should not consume large portions of dark chocolate because it is also high in artery-clogging saturated fat. Make them part of a nutritious diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables and foods that are low in fat and cholesterol. The key is moderation.

As you prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day, don’t feel guilty about indulging in some dark chocolate with a glass of red wine. It may be just the recipe to make your heart go pitter patter.

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